Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto has filed the “One Town, One Doctor” bill, a novel scholarship program in which government will fund the schooling of one medical student chosen from among the youth of a town—on the condition that when he becomes a doctor, he will go back to his town to serve for four years.
“In short, this is a ‘galing sa bayan, tungo sa bayan’ scheme of producing doctors. We pick from among the town’s best and brightest, finance his medical studies, and when he becomes a doctor, he repays it by serving his townmates,” Recto said.
And while the doctor is doing his mandatory four-year community service, another bright young student from the same town starts medical schooling so that there will be a replacement after four or five years, Recto explained.
“If we’re facing a lack of rural doctors, this is one way to guarantee supply. This is an education and a health program rolled into one. We tap local human talent in training a professional who will perform health service among his people,” Recto said.
“This is one investment with a high social ROI. If we can afford to spend P2.4 million to produce one Philippine Military Academy graduate, why scrimp in producing doctors who are badly needed?” Recto said.
According to experts, the country’s public health system is grappling with a shortage of 60,000 doctors. As result, six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor.
To be administered by the Department of Health (DOH), the scholarship will cover “tuition, laboratory and miscellaneous fees, and other related school fees; textbooks, supplies and equipment; clothing and uniform allowances; traveling expenses and subsistence and living allowance.”
The scholar must belong to the upper 30 percent of a graduating class of any of the undergraduate prerequisite courses for a doctoral degree in medicine.
Said candidate must have passed the admission tests and related requirements of the medical school that the scholar plans to enroll in.
If none from a town qualifies for the program, the allotted slot may be assumed by a scholar coming from another town in the same province. The scholar, however, upon getting his license to practice will serve in the town which provided the slot.
Recto said the One Town, One Doctor program can be financed by state gaming income, from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corporation (PAGCOR).
PCSO booked a gross income of P37.4 billion in 2015, while on the first half of this year PAGCOR had already raked in a gross revenue of P24.8 billion, of which P15.6 billion went to state coffers.